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Ukraine rejects Chinese plan to end war while others sceptical

Ukraine rejected the plan, saying it would do nothing except freeze the status quo.

Published February 24,2023

Top EU and NATO officials and China observers reacted with scepticism on Friday to Beijing's much-anticipated position paper on the Russian-Ukraine war, in which it called for a ceasefire between the two parties.

Ukraine rejected the plan, saying it would do nothing except freeze the status quo.

China, in its 12-point paper, said conflict and war "benefit no one" and that all involved should remain rational "and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiralling out of control."

Ukraine rejected the Chinese position paper.

"Any 'peace plan' that envisages only a 'ceasefire' and, as a result, a new dividing line and the occupation of territories is not about peace," wrote presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Twitter on Friday.

It is rather a "freezing of the war," the "next stages of genocide." Ukraine continues to insist on the withdrawal of Russian troops and calls for its internationally-recognised 1991 borders to be accepted.

Others, including diplomats and experts, reacted with scepticism and disappointment, since the 12-point document did not reveal any new initiatives. It was also pointed out that China is not neutral and has still not condemned Russia's invasion to this day.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin refused to answer a journalist's questions as to why China has not called on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. He said China could play "a constructive role," but did not hold out the prospect that Beijing would mediate the conflict.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reacted cautiously to China's paper.

Von der Leyen said in Tallinn that the 12 points had to be seen against the background that China had already taken sides. China and Russia had, she said, assured each other of their close ties shortly before the war began.

Stoltenberg commented that China did not have much credibility when it came to such mediation efforts because it had not yet formally condemned the Russian invasion.

EU foreign affairs envoy Josep Borrell said the Chinese proposal is "not a peace plan. It's a position paper where China has put together all its positions," ahead of the UN Security Council meeting in New York. Borrell said there were interesting observations in the paper and urged China to talk to Ukraine about its intention.

In Berlin, a government spokesman welcomed the plan as a new initiative by China, although was missing "important elements."

Russian lawmaker and foreign policy expert Leonid Slutski called the plan "balanced," in a post on Telegram. At least, he said, it was more balanced than a UN General Assembly resolution from Thursday. The resolution called for a complete Russian troop withdrawal, which would have amounted to a capitulation, Slutsky said.

China policy experts saw the paper more as an attempt by China to repair its tattered image in the world, stemming from its support for Russia.

There is nothing new in the paper, said China expert Manoj Kewalramani of the US think tank Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS). The 12 points are part of well-known Chinese positions.

"I am describing such a document as a nothing-burger. The paper is basically a compilation of 12 points, which have been part of Beijing's public positions on the war," he said.

"No one who reads this can come away with the idea that China is in any way a neutral mediator."

"The document suggests that Beijing would rather peace talks be about a new European security architecture than about the war itself," he added.

The paper called for an immediate resumption of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. It also said nuclear power plants must be kept safe and threat or use of nuclear weapons should be opposed.

China supported the International Atomic Energy Agency in playing a constructive role in promoting the safety and security of peaceful nuclear facilities, it said.

The paper stated that China "opposes unilateral sanctions unauthorized" by the UN Security Council.

Many countries have slapped sanctions on Russia since it invaded Ukraine, targeting Russia's economy, financial system, energy exports, central bank as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle.

China is seen as a close ally of Russia. At the same time, Beijing has so far largely complied with the international sanctions imposed on Russia to avoid becoming a target of punitive measures itself.